I like it when a menu confuses me. In other words, if I am forced to ask the waiter to explain an ingredient, I’m hooked. I view dining out as an experience. Why order something I can make at home—or bite into anywhere else? This delightful mystery occurred the two times I dined at Goodkind, which popped up on a residential block in Bay View last year in 2014. Its founders are a team of seasoned culinary folks who have worked at top Milwaukee restaurants and bars like Odd Duck (chefs Paul Zerkel and Lisa Kirkpatrick) and Burnheart’s (bartender Katie Rose and owners Jessica and William Seidel).
This second-story eatery channels San Francisco funk and Old School Milwaukee, with a menu that changes nightly and employs lots of interpretative measures to bring Wisconsin’s farm-fresh foods into the menu. On my first visit, in which I met two friends for Sunday brunch, I ordered a cocktail with such a quirky name that I’ve long forgotten it (also, it’s worth noting that the cocktails change by season) and promptly queried the waiter about the ingredients. Like the drinks list, each menu item is dictated by what’s fresh and in season. And the wait staff gush so much about the dishes while describing them to you that you can’t help but already taste them on your palate. Right now, whipped tofu with trendy avocado toast and rapini (a word worth looking up: it’s akin to broccoli rabe) bumps up against a coffee-dusted egg in the breakfast sandwich and fennel pollen with the Nashville hot fried chicken. There’s even a little bit of Scandinavian flair with the aebleskiver pancakes, little spheres jazzed up with cardamon, kumquat-cranberry jam and gruyere cheese.
On my second visit, a friend and I sat down for a late-night Monday dinner (a rarity as few restaurants are open on this night) with intentions to try as many dishes as possible, starting with the Champagne-battered oyster mushrooms before easing into braised octopus with some delicious foreign ingredients. Semolina dumplings—which are included with the octopus entrée—stem from Austria and Italy and literally pop in your mouth thanks to Meyer-lemon marmalade and candied pine nuts. A nod to Sicily is in the caponata side, crafted from eggplant and balancing sweet and sour.
The vibe at Goodkind is casual—think salvaged woods and mood lighting—and yet you’re not going to find anybody here who is not curious about food. And thanks to the menu being on a seasonal rotation, even locals who adore the cuisine here come back again and again, because they know that each experience is different from the last. Working with 24 different farms to source the ingredients, the result is pure innovation, whether it’s Yuppie Hill Poultry’s eggs, Sugar Bee Farm’s exotic mushrooms (grown within the city limits) or Underground Meats charcuterie.
Wine fans will be happy to know that the wine list is carefully curated, and includes Willamette Valley, Oregon, Pinot Noir; as well as French selections and higher-end California wines (the 2012 Donkey & Goat Syrah but one example). And on Monday nights—as my friend and I learned—bottles are half off the list price. There are also quite a few Wisconsin beers on the menu, including Karben 4’s Fantasy Factory (Madison), Enlightened Brewery Company’s 43207 (Milwaukee) and New Glarus Brewing Company’s Moon Man (New Glarus)
Wine and beer dinners are, from time to time, hosted at Goodkind. Check out the website for event announcements. On Feb. 3 there is a Central Waters beer dinner ($100 for four courses plus a beer cocktail) and last fall, in concert with Milwaukee Cocktail Week, Goodkind hosted a five-course cocktail-pairing dinner with Great Northern Distillery of Plover, Wis.